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The Best Movies for Halloween #20 Pitch Black

“All you people are so scared of me. Most days I’d take that as a compliment. But it ain’t me you gotta worry about now.”


I debated on whether or not to include this one. After all it’s always a bit of a debate with some movies where sci-fi ends and horror begins. (same problem with thrillers and fantasy). But in the end this movie is about fear and monsters.

It’s a movie which presents all kinds of monsters. First you have what would become our anti-hero, Vin Diesel’s Riddick, a sociopath who enjoys playing with people (and one assumes killing people although we don’t quite see that in this film). The second act gives you the tension of impending doom from the real monsters that are coming and villainy of an unethical bounty hunter who is willing to kill anyone to get what he wants. And finally, of course, we have the monsters themselves. The movie does a good job of keeping what they look like hidden in shadow for much of the film, which always heightens the evil and fear of anything that goes bump in the night.

But it’s not just the fear of the unknown. Or the fear of death. Or the fear of the dark. Or the fear of others. Or the fear of pain. Or the fear of the future. Or the fear of making the wrong choice. Or the fear of being alone. It’s all of them. In many ways this movie is a study in fear and how it affects people, or as Riddick put it, “I truly don’t know what’s gonna happen when the lights go out Carolyn but I do know, once the dying starts, this little psycho fuck family of ours is gonna rip itself apart.” And you do see some of the characters at their worst because they give into their fears.

But our two main characters Riddick (the anti-hero) and Caroline (the hero) don’t seem to fully give into these at any point, they’re afraid but they don’t let it control them. As just a movie it has a lot of things going for it, but most of all it has realistic characters, Riddick isn’t just evil for the sake of evil and Caroline has more than a few moments of weakness…but they both come out as admirable in their own way. The movie also shows that you don’t need to have a massive budget to make a good movie (after all, the sequel had a much larger budget and wasn’t nearly as good a film). Not that the director doesn’t have some odd editing choices (especially the rapid firing cutting he seems enamored with) but it is still an example of an overall well done (not great, but well done) horror film.

Then of course there are the creatures. We never really got a great look at them. Yeah we saw them from a lot of different angles in brief bursts of light and their heads were very visible, but a good look at them was never given. We always fear what we can’t see. And there is that eyeless (things without eyes are just more frightening) head that looks like a bunch of horns and teeth. Overall the creatures have a very demonic look to them.

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Best Things to watch for Halloween #24 The X-files

This was kind of a no brainer that it would make it on the list.  You have such a wide range of horrific monsters to choose from.  Flukeman, Cigarette Smoking Man, Tombs, the fat sucking guy from “2shy”, Donnie Pfaster, the black oil, the entire cast of “Bad Blood”. (Okay that last one wasn’t that scary…although Mulder singing “Shaft” was disturbing on many levels).    The list can go on for some time.  For 9 years they creeped us out, not every week, but consistently they had the hairs on the back of our neck standing up.

So let’s take a look at the most horrifying episodes in no particular order.

Eve. There is just something about sociopathic children that is frightening.  When they’re in stereo it’s even worse.

Psychopaths now come in pairs…how the complete opposite of cute.

Die Hand Die Verletzt.  Satanists.  Ritual murder.  The evil substitute is really a demon out to kill just about everyone.  What’s not to get a creep factor from?

Irresistible.  There was nothing supernatural or mystical about this episode.  Just a serial killer who takes a liking to Scully.  (Yes it’s implied he might be something more demonic and less human, but that is never really delved into…besides it’s human behavior that frightens us the most.)  This was more frightening because for so much of the episode we don’t have any X-file to blame, any supernatural cause to have as an excuse for the evil and the terror…just a man who likes to hurt people.

War of the Coprophages.   With the exception of spiders there is probably no bug creepier than cockroaches…and a whole episode of them, even if it’s humorous, just leaves you feeling uncomfortable.  Especially in that part where the cockroaches crawl across the screen.

Chinga.  Yeah we’ve seen the evil doll theme before.  But this one was written by Stephen King.  And it was bloody.

And you thought your coworkers were bad…

Folie a Deux.  Bug like monsters creating zombies no one can see.  Do I need to explain why that’s creepy?

Scary Monster.  It had the feel of that Twilight Zone episode where the kid might send you out to the cornfield…only far more horrifying tortures.

And finally Roadrunners.  Most people missed this episode because it was after Duchovny left the show…but that’s part of why it’s terrifying.  If Mulder isn’t there to save Scully, then who will? (Not to suggest that Scully didn’t save Mulder’s ass a lot).  And the idea of a giant worm that burrows into you and takes you over in “Puppet Master” fashion equally disturbing.  But what was worse was that we spent half the episode watching it burrow into Scully.  I don’t get frightened by movies or TV often, I’m usually too busy analyzing how everything works and probably working on something else at the same time…but I remember this episode had me actually worried about what would happen the first time it aired.

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The Best Halloween Movies #22 The Monster Squad

 

“Perfect monsters hate religious stuff”

It’s insights like that that show these kids truly know what they’re talking about when it comes to monsters. In this case it’s a who’s who of classic film. Dracula. His three brides. Frankenstein’s monster. The Wolfman. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Mummy. The gang’s all here in their traditional laconic demeanor (except for Dracula, that guy loves to hear himself talk…and come up with little witty quips like “Meeting adjourned.”) I can’t sing this movie’s praises for too long, it’s just too silly to do so, but it gets this high on the list because it does understand the nature and style of all the classic horror movies, wraps them into one, and adds a touch of the innocence of childhood.

This movie is also a fun trip back to the 80’s. There is the power ballad montage as the squad prepares for battle. There is the truly awful fashion. Drive-in movies are still around. Parents still smoke right in front of their kids unaware that it’s a class A felony and crime against humanity. The language is so radically not P.C. that even I was a little stunned when I heard it (yeah it’s been a years…a decade…since the last time I saw this.)

Also…
There have been complaints about some of the movies I don’t seem to have included…so let me run down the list of why some other movies and TV shows didn’t make the list

Twilight Zone: Too hopeful. Yeah there were some scary scenes but overall Rod Serling wasn’t so much taken with the fear of death but with the miracle of life…just look at the episode where Redford plays death, it’s a very uplifting tale.

Outer Limits: Not well done. In either the old or the new version its quality was always inconsistent at best…and laughable at worst. The poor man’s Twilight Zone.

Gremlins: Horror movies cannot have cute furballs…and Christmas movies can’t have stories of people’s dads dying in a chimney, so it won’t be making that list either.

The Exorcist: I have comedies on this list, but they were trying to be funny, the Exorcist is funny because it’s so poorly done. I can’t help but laugh the whole way through. Honestly, how is anyone frightened by this farce?

The Ninth Gate: I’ve actually heard good things about this…and the minute director and child rapist Roman Polanski dies I’ll give it a try, but not a minute before.

House II: Several people from my generation mentioned this movie to me…we all seem to remember it fondly. How can you not? The movie actually includes the following line from an electrician called to deal with an old house’s electricity problem: “What you’ve got here is your standard transdimensional portal. I’ve dealt with this before.” But aside from a few witty (albeit bizarre) lines, it really didn’t hold up when I went back to watch it.

Evolution: I think it’s funnier than some of the comedies on this list…but I just see it as more sci-fi than horror.

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